Belgian mystery writer Georges Joseph Christian Simenon was born on February 13, 1903. As this was considered inauspicious, his birth date was falsely registered as having been the previous day. His parents took in international student lodgers, which brought the world to his door. Simenon dropped out of school and got a job on a newspaper, where he developed a fascination for criminology. After hours, he hung out with all the local low-lives, bohemians, and political agitators who formed the material for the books he started to write.
In 1922, he moved to Paris with his girlfriend-then-wife, Tigy, where he continued to live in the more colorful neighborhoods. He and Tigy had a taste for adventure; they lived on a boat on the French canals for a few years and Simenon traveled the world as a reporter. He began a multi-decade affair with a woman named Boule, who lived with the family. His most famous character, Inspector Maigret, first appeared in 1930. During the war, he was at best apolitical, at worst a collaborator. He was forbidden the right to publish any books for five years, due to movie rights deals he made with Nazis, a technicality he got around by moving to North America with his family, including Boule. He then picked up another mistress, Denyse Ouimet, who had been hired as Simenon’s secretary, divorced Tigy, and married the new woman. Simenon and Ouimet moved to Switzerland, but the marriage foundered when Simenon started a relationship with the housekeeper. Simenon died in his sleep on the night of the 3rd to 4th of September, 1989.
Simenon was an incredibly prolific writer, publishing over 200 novels and as many other shorter works under his own name, as well as a host of pseudonyms, totaling over 550 million copies in sales. Many of his books have been adapted as films, both for the big screen and TV. Today’s expression, un coup de cœur (uhn koo duh kur), means “a blow of the heart.” It’s our equivalent to “love at first sight.” Simenon appeared to have as many one-true-loves as best-sellers as well as a wiggly moral compass in other realms, but he sure could write a great mystery story.